Monday, December 20, 2010

Report: The effects of poor (and political) media coverage

The video below shows what happens to people when they rely on biased news, and how a political news organization responds to claims about biased reporting. It's quite scary.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

China knows words Americans don't?

In a recent Rasmussen poll, 51 percent of the respondents answered affirmatively when asked if the recent WikiLeaks leak was an act of treason. The problem with this poll is that "treason" does not simply mean something the United States does not like, but an act against ones own country.

The Chinese president, Hu Jintao, seems better up to date with the fine nuances of language. According to a recently leaked document, Hu referred to Dalai Lama as a traitor. Dalai Lama is from Tibet (which is a part of China) and can therefore be considered a traitor. Good work, Hu!

In the United States, however, there seems to be considerable movement towards simply changing the meaning of the word. This follows a trend that George W. Bush also liked, when he attempted to change the word "torture". I've suggested previously that the new, less freedom-loving version of the United States, might opt to have new federally funded dictionaries. I think it's a good idea to ensure that ALL Americans are up to date with the recent meaning of words.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The US needs new dictionaries!

The tendency in the US is that new dictionaries really are needed. No, I don't refer to the questions that are raised about whether Julian Assange - an Australian - can commit treason to the United States. But yes, I do refer to the re-working of what the word "terrorism" means.

Traditionally, a terrorist has been one who uses fear (terror) as a way to attempt to frighten people into a certain type of behavior. By the old school standard, such an act involves the use of violence. But not anymore...

Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden, spoke today about Julian Assange and called the guy a "hi-tech terrorist". The idea, I think, is that everyone who threatens the United States in some way now, is to be labeled a terrorist.

So here are suggested revisions for a new American federally funded dictionary:

Terrorism:
1. a person, usually a member of a group, who uses or advocates terrorism.
2. a person who terrorizes or frightens others.
3. a person who is viewed as dangerous by the American government.

Treason:
1. the betrayal of a trust
2. the offense of attempting by overt acts to overthrow the government of the state to which the offender owes allegiance or to kill or personally injure the sovereign or the sovereign's family
3. the act of doing something that is disliked by the American government.

As more words in need of an update show up, I will keep adding to this list.

Media organizations: Example of framing

Whereas censorship gets quite a bit of attention from various people on the internet, another serious issue that is about as important, is given much less attention. Media framing means that media organizations offer different cues to readers and these cues are known to influence the opinions of readers. That people respond positively to cues - if they lack information that counters it - is a primary reason why propaganda works.

There are a lot of stories nowadays that offer certain cues or that frame stories in a given way. Take this recent CBS story, for example, which is titled "When Did Assange Know Pvt. Manning?". By titling an article this way, the journalist seem to indicate that Assange knew Manning, even if no information has been offered to support this position.

While this may seem like a small thing, it is the combined effort by all the major news organizations to do this that really matters. When everyone promotes similar views, people become more likely to accept those views.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Poll: 38 percent of Americans are tired of press freedom

In a recent poll, Fox News found the following:

"Americans are far less harsh in their judgment of news organizations -- like the New York Times -- that published the leaked information, as only 38 percent would push for punishment of those media outlets."


It is quite amazing that "only" 38 percent would push for punishment. The number is really low, considering the potential negative effects it could have on press freedom and democracy. If New York Times were to be found guilty, it could become illegal to publish anything the US government finds to be "secret", for whatever reason. That would mean the press would essentially have to print just what the government wants it to print.

So yeah, 38 percent of Americans must want to make the country look more and more like China. But then again, China may be right.

Fox News journalist Bill McGowan: Paranoia club boss?

Fox News journalist Bill McGowan responded yesterday to recent arguments made by the New York Times reporter David E. Sanger. Sanger defended the newspaper's decision to publish WikiLeaks stories by concluding that "what we did was responsible, it was legal and it was important for a democratic society"

McGowan does not quite agree. Sure,he agrees that it was probably legal to publish the stories, but not so much on the other two issues:

"On Sanger's other two points, that The Times acted responsibly in publishing some of the leaked cables' contents and that doing so was good for democracy, the picture is much more ambiguous.

(...)

But for all the good these revelations about our allies and adversaries do, they come at high cost, largely by stripping away the veils that American diplomats need to conduct their business around the world, particularly against Islamic terrorism."


This argument would be all well and good if it actually made sense. Yet no one are willing to even touch the following question: What effect does McGowan and his censorship-pals think it would have if American newspapers did not write about the story? Would WikiLeaks realize they're beaten, apologize and stop publishing?

No, it seems as if McGowan misses the point that there are other countries, other newspapers that do a good job publishing these things. There's also Wikileaks.ch, Wikileaks.de and a lot of other versions of that site. So even if American newspapers would not publish the information, it would still be out there.

The only actual effect of it would be that Americans won't have as easy access to it as they've used to. This situation mirrors the one people in China would face in case leaks that could be troublesome for that country, would happen. Chinese people really will have to struggle to get the information.

Are people like Bill McGowan really suggesting that the Chinese way is the better way? Bye, bye freedom, welcome paranoia?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Should Spotify censor Nazi music?


Spotify has declared that despite requests from Jewish organizations, they will not remove songs that could probably be considered neo-Nazi or Nazi. Fans of songs like "Sieg heil, Viktoria!", "Landzer und Panzer" and "Sa Totenmarsch" can therefore still hear their songs on the internet.

Following demands from Jewish, anti-semitic organizations, a spokesperson for Spotify in Europe, Sofie Grant, has declared that "although the company does not support content that may hurt people, they cannot remove such content either." According to Grant, "it is the record labels that pick the material we host and they are the ones who are responsible for ensuring that this material is legal."

I agree with the position Spotify takes here. Although a lot of people may feel offended if they find a song titled "Sieg heil, Viktoria," we simply shouldn't move towards a society where disliking something is reason enough to remove it. If the music is legal, it should thus be available on Spotify for those who wishes to listen to it.

I think Jewish organizations ought to fight for things that actually means something. I seriously don't think people become Nazis by listening to Nazi music and I think these organizations should instead use their energy to fight people who wish to kill Jews simply because they are Jewish. That's an actual problem.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

How the media affects how people think

I found an interesting article that sums up the basics on what influence the media has on people's views.

Although people do often tend to think their opinions are formed by themselves, the reality is that choices made by media organizations, such as the cues they offer their viewers or readers and the voices they give the chance to comment on a story, affects the perception of the story among readers or viewers. This effect is particularly big when the viewer or reader has low or no information about the issue he or she is consuming media information about.

Whenever we evaluate issues that are relatively new on the media agenda, we take into use our values and the views we have had of similar issues in the past. If we are strongly in favor of freedom of speech, for example, it makes sense that our opinions will likely favor any organization that releases documents that may or may not endanger someone. If we have previously cared primarily for security, however, the chance is that we evaluate the similar case differently. Research shows that the stronger our values are, the bigger the chance is that we will be negative to any argument that is not corresponding with our values. If we have less strongly developed values, the chances are much higher that the media narrative will affect our views.


Read the entire story here.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Confidential: The USA and Canada are close allies

I found the following story in Korea Times (of all places) and I thought it was interesting:

It is widely agreed, including by the officials who are in charge of the process, that the U.S. government classifies way too much information. Give bureaucrats a "top secret" stamp and they will use it freely. No one ever gets called on the carpet for a document that doesn't get out.

As the Associated Press found in reviewing the classified documents posted by WikiLeaks, U.S. diplomats classified as secret or confidential information that was in the public domain ― public speeches, summaries of what the local newspapers were saying, accounts of widely reported political feuds and stuff of only passing historical interest like how deceased dictator Josef Stalin was being taught in schools.

One classified cable from our embassy in Ottawa to new President Barack Obama contained this startling revelation:

"No matter which political party forms the Canadian government during your administration, Canada will remain one of our staunchest and most like-minded of allies, our largest trading and energy partner, and our most reliable neighbor and friend."

Despite periodic stabs at transparency, like Obama telling bureaucrats to err on the side of openness, the natural tendency of governments is to err on the side of secrecy. President George W. Bush, who tried to reclassify information that was already public, and his vice president, Dick Cheney, who gave us the phrase "undisclosed secret location," are probably closer to the norm.


Keeping secrets like this is a democratic problem because it reduces the chance that voters have sufficient information about what to vote for. The more trivial confidential information, however, may not have any implication whatsoever of what people would vote. This does not mean that it doesn't have consequences, however:

The refusal of government agencies to share classified information with each other was fingered as a critical U.S. weakness in the war on terror. And, as the AP points out, these things have costs: "The government spent at least $9 billion keeping classified information under wraps last year, and that doesn't include the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency and others that keep their spending on classified information classified."

Classifying innocuous or pointless information also devalues the job of protecting it. How seriously can someone be expected to take the job of keeping secret the insight that Canada is our friendly neighbor to the north? Getting rid of that kind of material would make it that much easier to safeguard what's left.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Can Julian Assange be extradited to the US?

With the recent news that the US will likely seek to have Julian Assange extradited to the US on espionage charges, it is worth asking the question of whether Assange can be extradited, and on what charges.

First, American authorities that Sweden and the United Kingdom are two completely different countries in terms of how US-friendly they are. Whereas the UK has what has been described as a "special relationship" with the US, Sweden upholds neutrality, has a very independent media and a strong tradition of media freedom. Handing over Assange to the United States, where he would likely be charged for a lot of different things to see what sticks, is therefore much less likely if Assange is first extradited to Sweden.

This is likely one of the reasons why the United States is acting now. The US government wants Assange handed over before he arrives in Sweden, simply because the United Kingdom is more likely to look the other way and send Assange to the United States. The UK's policies has been among the more liberal when it comes to handing over people to the US court system and the country has traditionally been very concerned with its pro-US image. Retaining this may ultimately hinge on sending Assange to what appears to become a mock trial.

What complicates this issue is that the US must - in accordance with its agreements with the UK and Sweden - in some way show how what they do is in fact illegal in the country the target is being held. This, combined with the fact that the United Kingdom may not be able to hold their nose long enough, may make the whole transaction of goodwill vs. Assange, difficult. Such transactions take years and any popular backlash in Britain could certainly complicate this affair. It is worth noting here that the Guardian is actually covering the WikiLeaks cables, unlike its American counterparts. I've written about that in several previous entries.

The question of what Assange will be charged for is a difficult one. He could, as US officials have hinted, be charged for espionage. The evident problem is that it will ultimately be very easy to defend Assange against such charges. Assange can simply argue that he did not partake in any hacking and merely published whatever material he came across. By showing that he did publish material on other countries, he will most definitely be protected by the first amendment.

The problem is, however, the recent tendency where American politicians have sought to have alleged terrorists sentenced in courts and where any failure to get the desired sentence, has been seen as an example of how the system is unable to deliver an appropriate sentence. That a suspect can be found to be innocent is therefore no longer the strength of a system, but its weakness. This means that a suspect is not innocent until proven guilty, but guilty until proven guilty. This sounds like a description of China and it disrupts and puts pressure on a system that still works reasonably well.

This furthermore is also a problem for press freedom. If Assange was in fact to be sentenced for espionage, it would mean that the US would find itself in a situation where whatever the government decides is secret, is essentially out of hands of the media. The media will be able to quote governmental officials, but they will not be able to prove they are lying by publishing secret governmental documents. This situation would mean that Obama could create another Gulag. Reporting on it would be a crime of espionage as long as the fact is made secret/classified.

Any such charges could therefore be made, but it does not necessarily mean they expect a sentence in accordance with it. It is likely that the government will instead throw in a lot of other minor charges, and hope the total sentence for minor things, will be high enough to keep Assange away for a relatively long time. One thing they've spoken of is theft of governmental property, but this is difficult since what Assange "conspired" in was merely copying of documents that by the law cannot be copyrighted.

What is sure is that the eventual result will be highly interesting. A trial against Assange will be heavily covered and it could mean worsening relations with many countries, especially if it appears that Assange does not get a fair trial. Any such operation is risky business for the US, because allies simply may not be able to hold their nose throughout the trial. There is also a chance that some countries may become braver and actually issue an arrest warrant for George W. Bush - an issue that would only highlight the hypocrisy of the current US government further.

But that's for the future (and maybe another blog post).

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Serbia to attend Nobel Prize awarding ceremony

According to Serbian newspaper Blic, Serbia has changed its stance on the Nobel ceremony. The country previously was among the 19 countries that said they would not attend the Nobel concert. Now it has been decided that ombudsman Sasa Jankovic will attend the ceremony as special representative of Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic. This reduces the tally of countries not to attend down to 18.

The decision has been made after the European Union put heavy pressure on Serbia.

Why the U.S. Has a Weak Legal Case Against WikiLeaks' Assange

I've previously written about how the US stands a poor chance to get Julian Assange and WikiLeaks sentenced for anything in an American court. This conclusion is drawn from the fact that the first amendment to the American constitution offers the press freedom to publish. Time's Michael A. Lindenberger supports this view in a blog post he wrote today:

Putting someone like Assange in jail for publishing documents he did not himself steal, on the other hand, is exactly the kind of thing that First Amendment makes difficult. "From everything we've seen, [Manning] was merely responding to the notion that Assange might publish the cables," former CIA inspector general Frederick P. Hitz told TIME. "There's nothing to show that Assange played an active role in obtaining the information." He conceded that the leaks had been tremendously damaging, but added "I don't see any easy effort there" in pursuing charges.

Holder has said the government will explore whether Assange could be charged with a form of theft since the records had been stolen, though such a course is fraught will obstacles, given that the files are digital copies of government records. Holder said too the government will consider whether Assange might be guilty of conspiring somehow with Manning, or went beyond the traditional role of publisher by acting as a kind of broker in dissemenating the files to newspapers around the world. What worries famed First Amendment attorney Floyd Abrams is that if the government stretches to get around the Constitution to charge Assange, it may end up damaging the press freedoms enjoyed by every publisher.


This mirrors several posts I've previously made on this blog.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The "hacktivists" strike back!

Osama Bedier, VP of Platform at PayPal, today took the stage at Le Web’10, and declared that the company cut off WikiLeaks because of political pressure.

Bedier was quoted as saying: "State Dept told us these were illegal activities. It was straightforward. We first comply with regulations around the world making sure that we protect our brand."

The State Department later denied these allegations. "It is not true," the department spokesman P.J. Crowley told The Cable. "We have not been in touch with PayPal."

Hacktivism
Regardless of who's responsible, hacktivists are currently working hard to hit websites that "censor" WikiLeaks. By launching hacking attacks at the websites of PayPal, Mastercard, Visa and the Swiss bank that banned Julian Assange as their customer, the group attempts to state their opinion in opposition to censorship.

The success of the attempts to attack these websites can be seen here. It is quite evident that Mastercard is struggling hard, but the hardest hit is unquestionably the Swiss bank. If they operate a net bank service, they better solve their issues soon or customers will flee.

I've previously written about how the hacker group Anonymous has been attacking PayPal here.

Media figures come to defence of Assange after arrest on sex charges

I wrote yesterday that I would not follow the trial against Julian Assange, but it seems increasingly clear that the US wants him handed over to have him tried there. In that case, the story becomes much more interesting. It is very unlikely that Assange could actually be found guilty in an American court, but in todays society, the chance is better. Any court trying Assange, will face enormous pressure to deliver the desired verdict, and there is a chance that they might just cave in and deliver.

Some media figures have stepped up and decided to defend Assange recently. The website journalism.co.uk runs the following story today, on the Frontline Club's support of Assange:

The founder of investigative journalism club the Frontline Club has spoken out in defence of the WikiLeaks' founder and editor Julian Assange, following his arrest yesterday.

(...)

In a statement released last night, Vaughan Smith said that Assange has spent "much of the last several months" working from the Frontline Club and had been offered the address for bail. Smith also attended court yesterday to show his support for Assange "on a point of principle", he says.

"In the face of a concerted attempt to shut him down and after a decade since 9/11 that has been characterised by manipulation of the media by the authorities, the information released by Wikileaks is a refreshing glimpse into an increasingly opaque world.

"The Frontline Club was founded seven years ago to stand for independence and transparency. Recent informal canvassing of many of our more than 1,500 members at the Frontline Club suggests almost all are supportive of our position.

"I am suspicious of the personal charges that have been made against Mr Assange and hope that this will be properly resolved by the courts. Certainly no credible charges have been brought regarding the leaking of the information itself."


Sporadic attempts like this will likely have no major effect. It seems that what is needed is truly some actual, constant source of opposition. In the United States today, there is a tendency that the two biggest parties work together in most big cases (the war on terrorism, any actual war, the WikiLeaks war). This is unfortunate because it reduces the chances that people will stumble upon arguments that counter the core arguments that figure in the United States today.

Over time now, I will begin to try to present some of the research that shows just how much this actually matters. While people think they shape their opinions on their own, it is hardly the case. People form opinions based on cues and when the cues given to them are of a similar character ("WikiLeaks" = "terrorists", "illegal" etc.), people are likely to start believing in it, simply because no other sources counter such information. Humans are simply naive by nature.

With the two major American parties sharing the same view, the chances that questions that could be raised are not, increases sharply. Such questions would include what a verdict against Assange will mean in the future and whether it actually does any good. Some American politicians have been quite open about their view that the American system was better in the past when people were not as informed as they are today. This is a reality they may achieve if Assange is sentenced. Locking up Assange will set a precedence and other media organizations doing what he did, stands a high risk of ending up in Assange's position. This means that the United States will basically restrict the freedom of the press.

The other question is about as important. There are many signs that the way the US has fought terrorism, has in fact been a great source of recruitment to these terrorism organizations. The big question is what a verdict of Assange would do. Would others risk continuing if Assange is arrested? It remains to be seen, but there are many people who believes strongly in this. The freedom of the press isn't a right that can be taken away without reactions. This too must be taken into account when the response among allies is considered.

I definitely do hope I will not have to write more about this in the future. There is a good chance that Assange will not be found guilty and even a chance that he may not be handed over to the US. If he is, the results could be very bleak. There will be more on this story though.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Senator Lieberman: New York Times could be investigated


US senator Joseph Lieberman suggested in an interview with Fox News today that the New York Times and other media organizations could be investigated for publishing the US embassy cables that have been released by WikiLeaks. According to Lieberman, these organizations could be breaking American espionage laws when they publish these stories.

Lieberman is quoted in The Guardian as saying: "To me the New York Times has committed at least an act of, at best, bad citizenship, but whether they have committed a crime is a matter of discussion for the justice department."

According to The Guardian, Lieberman also suggested that Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, should be indicted under the 1917 Espionage Act.

The whole idea that New York Times and other news organizations should be prosecuted is, of course, quite absurd. It does, however, follow quite logically from what law specialists has previously stated. Jonathan Turley, for example, has said that if WikiLeaks is to be prosecuted, "we could be entering a very dangerous period for press freedom in our country". This is where most people would probably realize that it's a bad idea to go after WikiLeaks, but Lieberman is definitely not like most people.

I put a picture of Lieberman in the top of this blog. If you see him and have read this blog, it seems like a good idea to run!

I'll try to follow this story too.

Randy Newman - Political Science (video)

While I was writing the last entry, I thought about a Bob Dylan song that was played live by another artist many years ago. I didn't find it, but I thought of another song I think fits the sentiment among some Americans these days.

So here it is, Randy Newman with the song "Political Science".

What Americans want to read

I think this is interesting enough to blog about:

Yesterday I made a blog post about the recently leaked list of places that are deemed vital to the United States. See the list and story on it here.

Over the last day it has, however, become quite clear that this list is something a lot of Americans wanted to see. It has gotten many, many times more hits than for anything else I've written here. This is good. I think that when the media starts writing about how this list is a "to do"-list for terrorists, it influences the opinion of people who reads it, but unless they see the list for themselves, they can't actually judge this information.

This brings me to my point here: I'd like to know if others who saw the list are as unimpressed as I am. In my understanding, this is a list full of locations that are well known and unless terrorists already know them, they must lack something.

So feel free to comment!

Visa and Mastercard block WikiLeaks



Both Visa Europe and Mastercard have suspended payments to WikiLeaks after determining that an investigation into whether WikiLeaks' operation is in conflict with their rules, is necessary.

This move will make it even more difficult for WikiLeaks to receive donations. It is, furthermore, yet another indication that the company is being censored.

It should be mentioned that this happened after the WikiLeaks' founder, Julian Assange, was jailed for one week for sexual crimes. This case against Assange, as it appears, may be about a legitimate crime and until there are more indications that it isn't, I will abstain from writing about it.

Read more the story on BBC

Some kind of censorship? China get 19 countries to not attend the Nobel concert


The Norwegian Nobel committee earlier this year decided to give the Nobel prize of 2010 to Liu Xiabo. This act has so far led to strong pressure from China on Norway. Other countries have not escaped pressure either, of course, and now, the list of countries that will not be attending the Nobel concert has been made public.

This list notably includes Russia, Serbia, Afghanistan, Egypt and Ukraine. That Russia is on the list appears to show that Russia and China may have an agreement to abstain from attending whatever could be embarrassing to the other. The Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten has also confirmed today that Afghanistan and Serbia are withdrawing from the concert because of Chinese pressure.

Here is the full list:

* Afghanistan
* China
* Colombia
* Cuba
* Egypt
* Iran
* Iraq
* Kazakhstan
* Morocco
* Pakistan
* Philippines
* Russia
* Saudi Arabia
* Serbia
* Sudan
* Tunisia
* Ukraine
* Venezuela
* Vietnam

Two other countries, Algeria and Sri Lanka, both did not answer whether they were going to attend the concert. Neither would comment on Aftenposten's story today.

According to the BBC report on the issue, "10 embassies were absent from the 2008 ceremony for former Finnish President and UN special envoy Martti Ahtisaari."

The Nobel concert is held later this week. I will post follow ups to this story if there are any.

Monday, December 6, 2010

COICA: Lets the government decide what you can read on the internet

I've previously written about how the United States government confiscated 82 websites last month. That story seems to only be an early taste of what is to come.

The “Combating Online Infringements and Counterfeits Act (COICA) that has been introduced to the American Congress would make website confiscation much easier than it has been so far. Sure, they confiscate without COICA too, with legal basis in federal civil forfeiture law, but with COICA, it becomes much easier to do it. COICA will simply give the government the power to censor the Domain Name System (DNS). This system is what "runs" the internet, but it is also the system that lets governments (and internet providers) prevent users from seeing certain websites. The government will therefore be able to create lists of websites that are to be blocked, simply by deciding that these websites should be blocked.

David Ulevitch, the founder and CEO of OpenDNS, argued in a recent blog entry that this is a terrible idea.

"[A]s we’ve seen with the ongoing Wikileaks.org saga, the government will try and utilize whatever resources it can to take sites offline. There is absolutely no need to arm them with a tool to automate it, let alone one that sits outside of any judicial review as COICA does."


It's difficult to not support Ulevitch's conclusion. Seeing how the Obama administration has acted with the WikiLeaks affair, it is difficult to understand just why they should now become even more powerful. People may think that the administration will only do "good" with this new power vested in it, but the historical evidence fails to support it. The new power can create processes that makes it very difficult to get off the list and it could lead towards the "wrong" websites ending up on the list.

I am very afraid that the last may become the case. The problem here is not so much the websites that clearly target an illegal market may end up being blocked. That the government has an ability to ensure that illegal material is taken off the internet, is not necessarily a major problem, at least as long as there is a trial to determine whether it is actually the case.

The real problem is that legitimate - or semi-legitimate - websites may be pulled down along with the illegitimate ones. Seeing just how the US has treated WikiLeaks now, I suspect that other legal - but disliked - websites will also be flushed with this new act.

I will be following this case to see where it goes.

More information "censored" in the American press: List of locations deemed valuable to the United States


Another pointless attempt to "censor" information occurred today with the newly leaked list of locations that are deemed valuable to US interests. According to Anderson Cooper's blog, CNN, for example, "is not publishing specific details from the list, which refers to pipelines and undersea telecommunications cables as well as the location of minerals or chemicals critical to U.S. industry."

The fact that CNN does not make the list available may not be a big deal. That they feel the need to point out that they will not post it does, however, indicate that the TV station has an agenda. As I've written about here, here and here, newspapers and news organization seem too concerned with the need to show that they're not on the side of these new Internet terrorists (to borrow a term from the anti-Assange patriots). Their job is, however, to report news and not simply to protect the United States of America.

It is, furthermore, questionable just how big an impact it has that CNN isn't making this list public. The list is easily available on the Internet (for example on Wikileaks.ch) and those who are into harming the US, will find the list easily on cablesearch.org. The list is, in fact, right here.

Since it's so easily available, I'll list the content below so people can judge whether CNN is right to not name information from it. The list is unfortunately messy, but that's how it shows up in the link. So as much as I'm sorry about that, the blame must fall on the American diplomats who seem to prefer it when it's messy.

Note: I see people are interested in this list (Americans, not terrorists), and I decided to just go over it and get each country's info on separate lines. I hope I didn't screw up anything.

Here is the list:

¶15. (S//NF) Following is the 2008 Critical Foreign Dependencies Initiative (CFDI) list (CI/KR organized by region): [BEGIN TEXT OF LIST]

AFRICA
Congo (Kinshasa): Cobalt (Mine and Plant)
Gabon: Manganese - Battery grade, natural; battery grade, synthetic; chemical grade; ferro; metallurgical grade
Guinea: Bauxite (Mine)
South Africa: BAE Land System OMC, Benoni, South Africa Brown David Gear Industries LTD, Benoni, South Africa Bushveld Complex (chromite mine) Ferrochromium Manganese - Battery grade, natural; battery grade, synthetic; chemical grade; ferro; metallurgical grade Palladium Mine and Plant Platinum Mines Rhodium

EAST ASIA AND THE PACIFIC
Australia: Southern Cross undersea cable landing, Brookvale, Australia Southern Cross undersea cable landing, Sydney, Australia Manganese - Battery grade, natural; battery grade, synthetic; chemical grade; ferro; metallurgical grade Nickel Mines Maybe Faulding Mulgrave Victoria, Australia: Manufacturing facility for Midazolam injection. Mayne Pharma (fill/finish), Melbourne, Australia: Sole suppliers of Crotalid Polyvalent Antivenin (CroFab).
China: C2C Cable Network undersea cable landing, Chom Hom Kok, Hong Kong C2C Cable Network undersea cable landing Shanghai, China China-US undersea cable landing, Chongming, China China-US undersea cable landing Shantou, China EAC undersea cable landing Tseung Kwan O, Hong Kong FLAG/REACH North Asia Loop undersea cable landing Tong Fuk, Hong Kong Hydroelectric Dam Turbines and Generators Fluorspar (Mine) Germanium Mine Graphite Mine Rare Earth Minerals/Elements Tin Mine and Plant Tungsten - Mine and Plant Polypropylene Filter Material for N-95 Masks Shanghai Port Guangzhou Port Hong Kong Port Ningbo Port Tianjin Port
Fiji: Southern Cross undersea cable landing, Suva, Fiji
Indonesia: Tin Mine and Plant Straits of Malacca
Japan: C2C Cable Network undersea cable landing, Chikura, Japan C2C Cable Network undersea cable landing, Shima, Japan China-US undersea cable, Okinawa, Japan EAC undersea cable landing Ajigaura, Japan EAC undersea cable landing Shima, Japan FLAG/REACH North Asia Loop undersea cable landing Wada, Japan FLAG/REACH North Asia Loop undersea cable landing Wada, Japan Japan-US undersea cable landing, Maruyama, Japan Japan-US undersea cable landing Kitaibaraki, Japan KJCN undersea cable landing Fukuoka, Japan KJCN undersea cable landing Kita-Kyushu, Japan Pacific Crossing-1 (PC-1) undersea cable landing Ajigaura, Japan Pacific Crossing-1 (PC-1) undersea cable landing Shima, Japan Tyco Transpacific undersea cable landing, Toyohashi, Japan Tyco Transpacific undersea cable landing Emi, Japan Hitachi, Hydroelectric Dam Turbines and Generators Port of Chiba Port of Kobe Port of Nagoya Port of Yokohama Iodine Mine Metal Fabrication Machines Titanium Metal (Processed) Biken, Kanonji City, Japan Hitachi Electrical Power Generators and Components Large AC Generators above 40 MVA
Malaysia: Straits of Malacca
New Zealand: Southern Cross undersea cable landing, Whenuapai, New Zealand Southern Cross undersea cable landing, Takapuna, New Zealand
Philippines: C2C Cable Network undersea cable landing, Batangas, Philippines EAC undersea cable landing Cavite, Philippines
Republic of Korea: C2C Cable Network undersea cable landing, Pusan, Republic of Korea. EAC undersea cable landing Shindu-Ri, Republic of Korea FLAG/REACH North Asia Loop undersea cable landing Pusan, Republic of Korea KJCN undersea cable landing Pusan, Republic of Korea Hitachi Large Electric Power Transformers 230 - 500 kV Busan Port
Singapore: C2C Cable Network undersea cable landing, Changi, Singapore EAC undersea cable landing Changi North, Singapore Port of Singapore Straits of Malacca
Taiwan: C2C Cable Network undersea cable landing, Fangshan, Taiwan C2C Cable Network undersea cable landing, Tanshui, Taiwan China-US undersea cable landing Fangshan, Taiwan EAC undersea cable landing Pa Li, Taiwan FLAG/REACH North Asia Loop undersea cable landing Toucheng, Taiwan Kaohsiung Port

EUROPE AND EURASIA
Europe (Unspecified): Metal Fabrication Machines: Small number of Turkish companies (Durma, Baykal, Ermaksan)
Austria: Baxter AG, Vienna, Austria: Immune Globulin Intravenous (IGIV) Octapharma Pharmazeutika, Vienna, Austria: Immune Globulin Intravenous (IGIV)
Azerbaijan: Sangachal Terminal Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan Pipeline Belarus: Druzhba Oil Pipeline
Belgium: Germanium Mine Baxter SA, Lessines, Belgium: Immune Globulin Intravenous (IGIV) Glaxo Smith Kline, Rixensart, Belgium: Acellular Pertussis Vaccine Component GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals SA, Wavre, Belgium: Acellular Pertussis Vaccine Component Port of Antwerp
Denmark: TAT-14 undersea cable landing, Blaabjerg, Denmark Bavarian Nordic (BN), Hejreskovvej, Kvistgard, Denmark: Smallpox Vaccine Novo Nordisk Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Bagsvaerd, Denmark: Numerous formulations of insulin Novo Nordisk Insulin Manufacturer: Global insulin supplies Statens Serum Institut, Copenhagen, Denmark: DTaP (including D and T components) pediatric version
France: APOLLO undersea cable, Lannion, France FA-1 undersea cable, Plerin, France TAT-14 undersea cable landing St. Valery, France Sanofi-Aventis Insulin Manufacturer: Global insulin supplies Foot and Mouth Disease Vaccine finishing Alstrom, Hydroelectric Dam Turbines and Generators Alstrom Electrical Power Generators and Components EMD Pharms Semoy, France: Cyanokit Injection GlaxoSmithKline, Inc. Evreux, France: Influenza neurominidase inhibitor RELENZA (Zanamivir) Diagast, Cedex, France: Olympus (impacts blood typing ability) Genzyme Polyclonals SAS (bulk), Lyon, France: Thymoglobulin Sanofi Pasteur SA, Lyon, France: Rabies virus vaccine Georgia: Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan Pipeline
Germany: TAT-14 undersea cable landing, Nodren, Germany. Atlantic Crossing-1 (AC-1) undersea cable landing Sylt, Germany BASF Ludwigshafen: World's largest integrated chemical complex Siemens Erlangen: Essentially irreplaceable production of key chemicals Siemens, GE, Hydroelectric Dam Turbines and Generators Draeger Safety AG & Co., Luebeck, Germany: Critical to gas detection capability Junghans Fienwerktechnik Schramberg, Germany: Critical to the production of mortars TDW-Gasellschaft Wirksysteme, Schroebenhausen, Germany: Critical to the production of the Patriot Advanced Capability Lethality Enhancement Assembly Siemens, Large Electric Power Transformers 230 - 500 kV Siemens, GE Electrical Power Generators and Components Druzhba Oil Pipeline Sanofi Aventis Frankfurt am Main, Germany: Lantus Injection (insulin) Heyl Chemish-pharmazeutische Fabrik GmbH: Radiogardase (Prussian blue) Hameln Pharmaceuticals, Hameln, Germany: Pentetate Calcium Trisodium (Ca DTPA) and Pentetate Zinc Trisodium (Zn DTPA) for contamination with plutonium, americium, and curium IDT Biologika GmbH, Dessau Rossiau, Germany: BN Small Pox Vaccine. Biotest AG, Dreiech, Germany: Supplier for TANGO (impacts automated blood typing ability) CSL Behring GmbH, Marburg, Germany: Antihemophilic factor/von Willebrand factor Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics GmbH, Marburg, Germany: Rabies virus vaccine Vetter Pharma Fertigung GmbH & Co KG, Ravensburg, Germany (filling): Rho(D) IGIV Port of Hamburg
Ireland: Hibernia Atlantic undersea cable landing, Dublin Ireland Genzyme Ireland Ltd. (filling), Waterford, Ireland: Thymoglobulin
Italy: Glaxo Smith Kline SpA (fill/finish), Parma, Italy: Digibind (used to treat snake bites) Trans-Med gas pipeline Netherlands: Atlantic Crossing-1 (AC-1) undersea cable landing Beverwijk, Netherlands TAT-14 undersea cable landing, Katwijk, Netherlands Rotterdam Port
Norway: Cobalt Nickel Mine
Poland: Druzhba Oil Pipeline
Russia: Novorossiysk Export Terminal Primorsk Export Terminal. Nadym Gas Pipeline Junction: The most critical gas facility in the world Uranium Nickel Mine: Used in certain types of stainless steel and superalloys Palladium Mine and Plant Rhodium
Spain: Strait of Gibraltar Instituto Grifols, SA, Barcelona, Spain: Immune Globulin Intravenous (IGIV) Maghreb-Europe (GME) gas pipeline, Algeria Sweden: Recip AB Sweden: Thyrosafe (potassium iodine)
Switzerland: Hoffman-LaRoche, Inc. Basel, Switzerland: Tamiflu (oseltamivir) Berna Biotech, Berne, Switzerland: Typhoid vaccine CSL Behring AG, Berne, Switzerland: Immune Globulin Intravenous (IGIV)
Turkey: Metal Fabrication Machines: Small number of Turkish companies (Durma, Baykal, Ermaksan) Bosporus Strait Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan Pipeline
Ukraine: Manganese - Battery grade, natural; battery grade, synthetic; chemical grade; ferro; metallurgical grade
United Kingdom: Goonhilly Teleport, Goonhilly Downs, United Kingdom Madley Teleport, Stone Street, Madley, United Kingdom Martelsham Teleport, Ipswich, United Kingdom APOLLO undersea cable landing Bude, Cornwall Station, United Kingdom Atlantic Crossing-1 (AC-1) undersea cable landing Whitesands Bay FA-1 undersea cable landing Skewjack, Cornwall Station Hibernia Atlantic undersea cable landing, Southport, United Kingdom TAT-14 undersea cable landing Bude, Cornwall Station, United Kingdom Tyco Transatlantic undersea cable landing, Highbridge, United Kingdom Tyco Transatlantic undersea cable landing, Pottington, United Kingdom. Yellow/Atlantic Crossing-2 (AC-2) undersea cable landing Bude, United Kingdom Foot and Mouth Disease Vaccine finishing BAE Systems (Operations) Ltd., Presont, Lancashire, United Kingdom: Critical to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter BAE Systems Operations Ltd., Southway, Plymouth Devon, United Kingdom: Critical to extended range guided munitions BAE Systems RO Defense, Chorley, United Kingdom: Critical to the Joint Standoff Weapon (JSOW) AGM-154C (Unitary Variant) MacTaggart Scott, Loanhead, Edinburgh, Lothian, Scotland, United Kingdom: Critical to the Ship Submersible Nuclear (SSN)

NEAR/MIDDLE EAST
Djibouti: Bab al-Mendeb: Shipping lane is a critical supply chain node
Egypt: 'Ayn Sukhnah-SuMEd Receiving Import Terminal 'Sidi Kurayr-SuMed Offloading Export Terminal Suez Canal
Iran: Strait of Hormuz Khark (Kharg) Island Sea Island Export Terminal Khark Island T-Jetty
Iraq: Al-Basrah Oil Terminal
Israel: Rafael Ordnance Systems Division, Haifa, Israel: Critical to Sensor Fused Weapons (SFW), Wind Corrected Munitions Dispensers (WCMD), Tail Kits, and batteries Kuwait: Mina' al Ahmadi Export Terminal
Morocco: Strait of Gibraltar Maghreb-Europe (GME) gas pipeline, Morocco
Oman: Strait of Hormuz
Qatar: Ras Laffan Industrial Center: By 2012 Qatar will be the largest source of imported LNG to U.S.
Saudi Arabia: Abqaiq Processing Center: Largest crude oil processing and stabilization plant in the world Al Ju'aymah Export Terminal: Part of the Ras Tanura complex As Saffaniyah Processing Center Qatif Pipeline Junction Ras at Tanaqib Processing Center Ras Tanura Export Terminal Shaybah Central Gas-oil Separation Plant
Tunisia: Trans-Med Gas Pipeline
United Arab Emirates (UAE): Das Island Export Terminal Jabal Zannah Export Terminal Strait of Hormuz
Yemen: Bab al-Mendeb: Shipping lane is a critical supply chain node

SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA
Kazakhstan: Ferrochromium Khromtau Complex, Kempersai, (Chromite Mine)
India: Orissa (chromite mines) and Karnataka (chromite mines) Generamedix Gujurat, India: Chemotherapy agents, including florouracil and methotrexate

WESTERN HEMISPHERE
Argentina: Foot and Mouth Disease Vaccine finishing
Bermuda: GlobeNet (formerly Bermuda US-1 (BUS-1) undersea cable landing Devonshire, Bermuda
Brazil: Americas-II undersea cable landing Fortaleza, Brazil GlobeNet undersea cable landing Fortaleza, Brazil GlobeNet undersea cable landing Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Iron Ore from Rio Tinto Mine Manganese - Battery grade, natural; battery grade, synthetic; chemical grade; ferro; metallurgical grade Niobium (Columbium), Araxa, Minas Gerais State (mine) Ouvidor and Catalao I, Goias State: Niobium
Chile: Iodine Mine
Canada: Hibernia Atlantic undersea cable landing Halifax , Nova Scotia, Canada James Bay Power Project, Quebec: monumental hydroelectric power development Mica Dam, British Columbia: Failure would impact the Columbia River Basin. Hydro Quebec, Quebec: Critical irreplaceable source of power to portions of Northeast U. S. Robert Moses/Robert H. Saunders Power, Ontario: Part of the St. Lawrence Power Project, between Barnhart Island, New York, and Cornwall, Ontario Seven Mile Dam, British Columbia: Concrete gravity dam between two other hydropower dams along the Pend d'Oreille River Pickering Nuclear Power Plant, Ontario, Canada Chalk River Nuclear Facility, Ontario: Largest supplier of medical radioisotopes in the world Hydrofluoric Acid Production Facility, Allied Signal, Amherstburg, Ontario Enbridge Pipeline Alliance Pipeline: Natural gas transmission from Canada Maritime and Northeast Pipeline: Natural gas transmission from Canada Transcanada Gas: Natural gas transmission from Canada Alexandria Bay POE, Ontario: Northern border crossing Ambassador Bridge POE, Ontario: Northern border crossing Blaine POE, British Columbia: Northern border crossing Blaine Washington Rail Crossing, British Columbia Blue Water Bridge POE, Ontario: Northern border crossing Champlain POE, Quebec: Northern border crossing CPR Tunnel Rail Crossing, Ontario (Michigan Central Rail Crossing) International Bridge Rail Crossing, Ontario International Railway Bridge Rail Crossing Lewiston-Queenstown POE, Ontario: Northern border crossing Peace Bridge POE, Ontario: Northern border crossing Pembina POE, Manitoba: Northern border crossing North Portal Rail Crossing, Saskatchewan St. Claire Tunnel Rail Crossing, Ontario Waneta Dam, British Columbia: Earthfill/concrete hydropower dam Darlington Nuclear Power Plant, Ontario, Canada. E-ONE Moli Energy, Maple Ridge, Canada: Critical to production of various military application electronics General Dynamics Land Systems - Canada, London Ontario, Canada: Critical to the production of the Stryker/USMC LAV Vehicle Integration Raytheon Systems Canada Ltd. ELCAN Optical Technologies Division, Midland, Ontario, Canada: Critical to the production of the AGM-130 Missile Thales Optronique Canada, Inc., Montreal, Quebec: Critical optical systems for ground combat vehicles Germanium Mine Graphite Mine Iron Ore Mine Nickel Mine Niobec Mine, Quebec, Canada: Niobium Cangene, Winnipeg, Manitoba: Plasma Sanofi Pasteur Ltd., Toronto, Canada: Polio virus vaccine GlaxoSmithKile Biologicals, North America, Quebec, Canada: Pre-pandemic influenza vaccines
French Guiana: Americas-II undersea cable landing Cayenne, French Guiana Martinique: Americas-II undersea cable landing Le Lamentin, Martinique
Mexico: FLAG/REACH North Asia Loop undersea cable landing Tijuana, Mexico Pan-American Crossing (PAC) undersea cable landing Mazatlan, Mexico Amistad International Dam: On the Rio Grande near Del Rio, Texas and Ciudad Acuna, Coahuila, Mexico Anzalduas Dam: Diversion dam south of Mission, Texas, operated jointly by the U.S. and Mexico for flood control Falcon International Dam: Upstream of Roma, Texas and Miguel Aleman, Tamaulipas, Mexico Retamal Dam: Diversion dam south of Weslaco, Texas, operated jointly by the U.S. and Mexico for flood control GE Hydroelectric Dam Turbines and Generators: Main source for a large portion of larger components Bridge of the Americas: Southern border crossing Brownsville POE: Southern border crossing Calexico East POE: Southern border crossing Columbia Solidarity Bridge: Southern border crossing Kansas City Southern de Mexico (KCSM) Rail Line, (Mexico) Nogales POE: Southern border crossing Laredo Rail Crossing Eagle Pass Rail Crossing Otay Mesa Crossing: Southern border crossing Pharr International Bridge: Southern border crossing World Trade Bridge: Southern border crossing Ysleta Zaragosa Bridge: Southern border crossing Hydrofluoric Acid Production Facility Graphite Mine GE Electrical Power Generators and Components General Electric, Large Electric Power Transformers 230 - 500 kV
Netherlands Antilles: Americas-II undersea cable landing Willemstad, Netherlands Antilles.
Panama: FLAG/REACH North Asia Loop undersea cable landing Fort Amador, Panama Panama Canal Peru: Tin Mine and Plant Trinidad and Tobago: Americas-II undersea cable landing Port of Spain Atlantic LNG: Provides 70% of U.S. natural gas import needs
Venezuela: Americas-II undersea cable landing Camuri, Venezuela GlobeNet undersea cable landing, Punta Gorda, Venezuela GlobeNet undersea cable landing Catia La Mar, Venezuela GlobeNet undersea cable landing Manonga, Venezuela
[END TEXT OF LIST]

Columbia University: Check wikileaks.ch or you don't deserve a degree


Wired has a story today on how Columbia University's guidelines for students concerning WikiLeaks have now changed dramatically after the university previously adviced their students against checking the recent WikiLeaks stories:

Days after Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) caused an uproar by warning its students against linking to Wikileaks or discussing the secret-spilling website’s latest cache of diplomatic cables online, the prestigious training ground for future diplomats has changed tack and embraced free speech.

Last week, the SIPA Office of Career Services sent an email to students saying that an alumnus who works at the U.S. State Department had recommended that current students not tweet or post links to Wikileaks, which is in the process of releasing 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables — many of them classified — because doing so could hurt their career prospects in government service.

“Engaging in these activities would call into question your ability to deal with confidential information, which is part of most positions with the federal government,” the Office of Career Services wrote.


Now the guidelines have changed:

SIPA Dean John H. Coatsworth has clarified the school’s policy and issued a ringing endorsement of free speech and academic freedom.

“Freedom of information and expression is a core value of our institution,” Coatsworth wrote in an email to the SIPA community Monday morning (full email below). “Thus, SIPA’s position is that students have a right to discuss and debate any information in the public arena that they deem relevant to their studies or to their roles as global citizens, and to do so without fear of adverse consequences.”

SIPA Professor Gary Sick, the prominent Middle East expert who served on the National Security Council under Presidents Ford, Carter, and Reagan, went even further in repudiating the memo.

“If anyone is a master’s student in international relations and they haven’t heard of WikiLeaks and gone looking for the documents that relate to their area of study, then they don’t deserve to be a graduate student in international relations,” Sick told Wired.com in an interview.


It is vital that universities remain free and it is good that Columbia didn't sacrifice it's view on that. As a political scientist, I cannot do anything but agree to Gary Sick's view either. It is important that students of international relations are interested in the world and whatever information is out there, especially when it offers as good insight into world affairs as WikiLeaks do. It is sad, however, that Columbia got to the point where they had to clarify this position.

Hacking group Anonymeous attack Paypal




PayPal recently cut off WikiLeaks from its service and thereby closed an important source of funding for Julian Assange's company. The company claimed that this was done because WikiLeaks violated its acceptable use policy, “which states that our payment service cannot be used for any activities that encourage, promote, facilitate or instruct others to engage in illegal activity.”

This argument would, however, appear to include various other media organizations too, since newspapers like the New York Times, Washington Post and other media groups routinely publish material that is classified. The argument is therefore likely just a made up claim to get rid of WikiLeaks.

The hacking group Anonymous has declared on 4chan and elsewhere that they regard PayPal's decision as an attempt to censor the whistle-blowing site. Anonymeous said on its website:

"While we don’t have much of an affiliation with WikiLeaks, we fight for the same reasons. We want transparency and we counter censorship. The attempts to silence WikiLeaks are long strides closer to a world where we can not say what we think and are unable to express our opinions and ideas.

We can not let this happen. This is why our intention is to find out who is responsible for this failed attempt at censorship. This is why we intend to utilize our resources to raise awareness, attack those against and support those who are helping lead our world to freedom and democracy."

Associate professor Joseph Palermo on the US media censorship of the WikiLeaks stories

Associate professor Joseph A. Palermo (California State University) is among the first I have seen who puts focus on the recent effort of journalists to stand behind the United States political establishment in their coverage of the WikiLeaks stories. Palermo writes in a column today in Huffington Post that "American journalists tend to either frame the story as being about the "over-classification" of documents or the personal motivations and private life of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange."

Palermo also writes on the self-censorship imposed by these newspapers to hide details I have not yet managed to pick up:

"Lost in the media static are many tidbits of information such as the squandering of U.S. tax dollars to enrich Afghan officials like the former vice president, Ahmed Zia Massoud, who was ushered through customs in Dubai carrying $52 million; or the spectacle of corrupt Sunni Arab sheikdoms (including Saudi Arabia) joining forces with Israel in demanding the United States attack Iran; or Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili nearly snookering the U.S. into a shooting war with Russia; or the double-dealing with terrorist organizations by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Even when the New York Times reports on the substance of the documents its editors couldn't resist pumping up the volume on the alleged sale of nineteen North Korean missiles to Iran, only to walk back the story a couple of days later."


Palermo's conclusion is about as interesting:

"The old Soviet news outlet, TASS, couldn't have asked for more obedience to the State from its "journalists" as American commentators (...) have shown in their attacks on WikiLeaks."

Palermo also refers to the tendency of politicians and media figures either subtly pointing to, or being open about, the "need" to assassinate Julian Assange.

"Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, (FAIR), the journalism watchdog group, printed in its December issue of its monthly magazine Extra! a summary of an exchange that took place on October 22, 2010 between ABC News's Daine Sawyer and Martha Raddatz when the first trove of WikiLeaks documents came out. After Raddatz summarized some of the revelations, which included "deadly U.S. helicopter assaults on insurgents trying to surrender . . . the Iraqi civilian death toll far higher than the U.S. has acknowledged . . . graphic details about torture of detainees by the Iraqi military." Sawyer's next question was: "I know there's a lot of outrage about this again tonight, Martha. But tell me, anything more about prosecuting the WikiLeaks group?" FAIR also quoted the former Bush State Department official and contributor to FoxNews.com, Christian Whiton, who called for the U.S. government to label Assange an "enemy combatant" and take "non-judicial actions" against him. FAIR's conclusion: "It's hard to think of another country where the opposition news media complains that the government doesn't assassinate enough journalists.""

It surely is.

And it is highly recommended to read the full story too.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Newt Gingrich: Elect him and get Assange killed?

Newt Gingrich, one of the favorites to win the Republican primary election in 2012, spoke on "Fox News Sunday" today where he attacked President Obama's handling of the WikiLeaks issue, as well as WikiLeaks and Julian Assange.

“This administration is so shallow and so amateurish about national security that it is painful and dangerous,” Gingrich said.

Gingrich was harder on Assange.

“Information warfare is warfare, and Julian Assange is engaged in warfare,” Gingrich said. “Information terrorism, which leads to people getting killed, is terrorism. And Julian Assange is engaged in terrorism. He should be treated as an enemy combatant. WikiLeaks should be closed down permanently and decisively.”

Like George W. Bush, Gingrich is well on the way in his effort to change the meaning of words. Like Bush, Gingrich will probably also succeed to some degree. That WikiLeaks does something that most certainly is protected by the first amendment, that what Assange does probably doesn't mirror warfare (hacking etc. could be) and that terrorism doesn't involve the release of documents on the Internet, doesn't seem to matter in this regard. The next Republican president will offer some interesting challenges for the media too. Maybe it's better to just get used to reading the Guardian?

WikiLeaks blocked in France?



France has a long history of not being very positive to different freedoms and in the WikiLeaks case, they've once more established themselves as among the worse. The French attacked the site early and declared that they did not want to see the site hosted in France. They got their wish and now they may have accordingly also blocked the website wikileaks.ch.

The United States has previously also closed down the wikileaks.org website because it was hacked. That reason is of course quite novel and interesting. More likely than not, the US government is involved. This suspicion is strengthened by the fact that they now also block wikileaks.ch. I wrote about this in a post yesterday.

Some people may think it's just fine that governments protect themselves by closing down websites, but once they begin closing down one website, there is a great chance that they are not done.

Tea Party Nation: Only property owners should have the right to vote

In the past it used to be common that only property owners could vote, and that was long the case in the United States too. Judson Phillips, president of Tea Party Nation, seems to want those days back. See video:



It's funny just how many people are willing to effectively abolish the American democracy. Now we can add Judson Phillips to the list...

Another WikiLeaks story censored by the American Media?

It seems the story of how the CIA abducted Khalid El-Masri, tortured him and released him somewhere in Albania when it was realized he was innocent, has not been given extensive coverage by the American press. The story is a serious one, however, and it is absurd that the press fails to cover it. Not only was El-Masri tortured, but he suffered from malnutrition when he was held by the US and he was left in an uncertain state with no money and no real way to get back home.

The real shocking part, however, is how the US government thereafter proceeded to prevent charges from being brought against those responsible. El-Masri is a German citizen and a process was well underway when the American embassy in Berlin stepped in to ensure that nothing would happen that would worsen the relationship between the two countries. Basically what the US did was to tell an ally that their legal system should function a little bit worse, or at least a little bit more like its American counterpart.

Here is the key part of the cable:

In a February 6 discussion with German Deputy National Security Adviser Rolf Nikel, the DCM [Koenig] reiterated our strong concerns about the possible issuance of international arrest warrants in the al-Masri case. The DCM noted that the reports in the German media of the discussion on the issue between the Secretary and FM Steinmeier in Washington were not accurate, in that the media reports suggest the USG [U.S. government] was not troubled by developments in the al-Masri case. The DCM emphasized that this was not the case and that issuance of international arrest warrants would have a negative impact on our bilateral relationship. He reminded Nikel of the repercussions to U.S.-Italian bilateral relations in the wake of a similar move by Italian authorities last year.

The DCM pointed out that our intention was not to threaten Germany, but rather to urge that the German Government weigh carefully at every step of the way the implications for relations with the U.S.


None of the major news organizations in the US appear to have covered this case. This is despite the fact that most of the details of the case have been covered in the past. The only new details seem to be that the US tried to pressure an allied country into acting a little more like the US.

It's very difficult to see just how this information would put anyone in danger or harm the national security of the United States to the degree that the White House should ask media organizations not to publish the stories. It's even more difficult to understand why - if this is correct - these organizations have gone along. I won't even try to offer an answer to that question.

Read more on this story at Salon.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Is WikiLeaks.ch blocked in the US?

WikiLeaks.ch appears to have been blocked in the US. This could of course be caused by some temporary error, but if it is not, it is a pretty big attack on freedoms of expression and freedoms of the press. The first amendment dictates that press organizations have the right to publish and WikiLeaks should by all likelihood be considered a media organization. The US government therefore violates the constitution if it is in some form involved in the blocking of Wikileaks.ch. This is serious business.

This follows from the prior closing of the domain WikiLeaks.org, which seems to have also been ordered by the American government. This information is of course speculative at best and may be wrong, but the reality is that the website loads in Europe, but not in the US.

Update: WikiLeaks.ch seems to be working in the US again.

The White House: It's unfortunate that news organizations determine what WikiLeak stories they should run

I've previously written about the recent trend that newspapers in the United States are asking the White House for advice on what stories they should avoid from the recent WikiLeaks cables. It appears that politicians move newspapers towards this position by maintaining the claim that the leaks are damaging to the United States and that it could put lives in danger.

Both the media and the White House have been relatively open about this tendency, probably because it could become an issue in itself if people starting asking why The Guardian is running stories New York Times isn't running. On a recent press conference, however, Philip J. Crowley (Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs), may have said a little more than he was supposed to when answering a question about the recent leaks. Crowley said:

"Unfortunately, it’s the news organizations that determine the redactions. We have made a range of requests." (Full transcript)


So the official position of the government is that it is "unfortunate" that the press is allowed to edit itself? That's quite remarkable considering the fact that the first amendment is very old! It is even more remarkable, however, that no one seem to raise any questions about it. The reason, it seems, is simply that the media has already given up their job of asking questions and instead embrace the government's position halfway, while performing their media duties halfway. And when the media isn't raising questions, people are not either.

A number of questions should be asked now:

If the information leaked by WikiLeaks can put people in danger, what good does it do that Americans don't know about that information? Is the American government afraid that Americans could be the ones that would put people in danger or why else is it so dangerous that Americans don't get to hear whatever it is that is being "redacted"? Does the American government think that foreigners read NY Times and watch CNN and have no other news sources? Why does this self-imposed form of censorship really help so much when the Guardian covers these leaks much better than any Americans news organizations? Wouldn't foreigners who might have an interest in hurting someone perhaps avoid New York Times as a primary source of their news?

I have a feeling that the answer is already out there. I've previously written about the American intervention in the Spanish law system to protect Bush officials. That involvement seems to have not been covered much in the US. MSNBC did a small segment on it and Fox Latino covered it briefly too. Other than that it has not been mentioned. The Guardian, meanwhile, has written at least five full stories on this case.

This story could only harm a few people: Alberto Gonzales and Barack Obama are two. It would be dangerous to the last one of them too, since it could affect his chances in the next election. Other than that, it simply isn't very dangerous.

But it was fortunate that the newspapers didn't run it.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Law Professor Jonathan Turley on the potential indictment of Cheney and the Wikileaks cables

Law professor Jonathan Turley recently appeared on MSNBC's Countdown to discuss the recent WikiLeaks cables.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Google will begin censoring torrent searches


It isn't unexpected at all, but Google has now decided that it will begin censoring searches so that people will no longer be able to use Google to find torrent sites and places that might be distributing pirated content. Under the new standard, takedown requests will be responded to within 24 hours and after that, searches will no longer show the sites that have been "taken down" from the results page.

This is problematic, of course, because Google is used by many people across the world. It seems to be a forgotten issue, but torrent websites can be used to download legal material and while torrent sites would never become particularly popular if they hosted only legal material, they do represent a platform for people who wish to distribute such content too.

It is problematic, moreover, that search engines seem to be held accountable to some degree, for search results they simply find. This seems to have become established since the website torrent-finder.com was among the seized website this week, even if it did not in any way host any illegal content, or even actual torrent files, on its platform.

More on the Google story here.

Avoiding US Censorship, Torrent Sites May Flee To China


After the American government seized 82 domain names this week, there has been discussions on what this means for torrent sites hosted in the United States. TorrentFreak, a website that deals with torrent related issues, has offered one suggestion on their website recently:

"China is often criticized for its Internet censorship practices. Although this is certainly valid with regard to political issues, the United States is rapidly becoming one of the most progressive countries when it comes to commercial censorship. Safeguarding commercial interests is increasingly preferred above the rights of the general public. Ironically, BitTorrent sites may have to flee to China to keep their ‘freedom’." The full story can be read here.

It is, of course, ironic that a country where freedoms do not tend to be the priority, may very well be the best place to continue such practices. This situation is, however, entirely a creation of the west, with increasing tendencies to control the content on the Internet.

Torrent websites do tend to focus on illegal material and although this material is not hosted directly on the websites that are targeted, the websites make the distribution possible. This has been found to be illegal in several cases. Although the confiscation of domains that host illegal material is not entirely unwarranted, it does, however, constitute one step towards blocking other content. Past examples show that when one step is first taken, the next step goes easier. With recent discussions among politicians in the United States to simply confiscate the Wikileaks website, this trend may be on the way. Time will only show more such examples.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Uncensored, funny inventions: The snowball maker!



No one would want to censor this great invention, but I still think it's worth putting here because it's brilliant. Whoever made this found a way to make perfect snow balls without even getting cold. Talk about genius!

I'll post more true brilliance later.

More funny inventions can be found on this blog.

Amazon says it dumped WikiLeaks because it put innocent people in jeopardy


I previously wrote about how Wikileaks was kicked off its servers yesterday by Amazon, its hosting company. Although it looked like this was an act of censorship, since the company was pressured by politicians, they now argue that it happened for a completely different reason. That the two happened at the same time is, if we are to believe Amazon, merely a coincidence.

In a story in New York Times today, a press release by the company is cited, where Amazon states that they "had canceled [their] relationship with WikiLeaks not because of “a government inquiry,” but because it decided that the organization was violating the terms of service for the program." The full story can be read here.

Although Amazon may tell the truth, the explanation sounds a little bit like an attempt to hide the company's true motives for removing Wikileaks from its servers. Web hosts are often a little more tolerable to paying customers than what Amazon appears to have been. The more likely explanation is therefore, perhaps, that the company simply felt that any association between Amazon and Wikileaks could prove to be negative in the long run. By getting rid of Wikileaks now, they may minimize their potential losses.

Calls are made to boycott Amazon by free speech activists.

This case raises some questions regarding Amazon's behavior, but perhaps more questions about the activities of politicians. Politicians are powerful people and it should be questioned whether they should be allowed to put pressure on companies that host websites that have not yet been found to be illegal. A trial should normally be a precondition for action, but that does not seem to stop senator Joe Lieberman, who was heavily involved in pressuring Amazon.

Obama and GOPers Worked Together to Kill Bush Torture Probe


A highly interesting story in Mother Jones basically follows up the tendency that Wikileaks is supplying information that voters should have to be able to make a true choice when they vote. The story details how the Obama administration has protected the Bush administration officials against criminal investigation in Spain by putting pressure on Spanish officials. Obama has hardly been given any credit for doing this, but it has not exactly been widely known either. The first paragraph in the story reads:

"In its first months in office, the Obama administration sought to protect Bush administration officials facing criminal investigation overseas for their involvement in establishing policies the that governed interrogations of detained terrorist suspects. A "confidential" April 17, 2009, cable sent from the US embassy in Madrid to the State Department—one of the 251,287 cables obtained by WikiLeaks—details how the Obama administration, working with Republicans, leaned on Spain to derail this potential prosecution."

The fact that the administration decided to hide this from the news makes this story merely another example of information that is hidden simply because it would be uncomfortable for certain people if it was to be revealed. There is no security issue involved. It would certainly be difficult to uphold the deal if it wasn't hidden from the media and the real test is whether it can be upheld now that it has been revealed.

On a different note, it is noteworthy that major American newspapers or news broadcaster appear to not publish or run this story. This could be an example of some form of self-censorship on the basis of White House objections to the leaks, an issue I wrote about here.

Read the full story in Mother Jones here.

US tanks: License to kill (and not be prosecuted!)

Recent stories leaked by WikiLeaks must be understood as great news for Americans operating tanks around the world. In one such story, it has been revealed that US officials have attempted to influence processes in Spanish courts that sought to have American soldiers extradited after firing at a hotel where journalists stayed. As a result, three Americans walked free and were not subjected to questioning.

The message is clear: If an American soldier happen to shoot a hotel filled with journalists, don't worry, the US government will ensure you won't be punished!

Read the full story here

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

NY Times let the White House partake in editing... A democratic problem?

With the latest round of the Wikileaks cables, the New York Times followed suit with prior practices, and has let the White House in on what it was going to publish. According to the newspaper, the White House suggested redactions and the Times "agreed to some, but not all" of the government's suggestions. The newspaper agreed, furthermore, to forward "the administration’s concerns to other news organizations and, at the suggestion of the State Department, to WikiLeaks itself".

The Times' willingness to open up to the White House follows a worrying prior tendency that the newspaper is willing to sacrifice its editorial rights and support the governmental position. The Times' coverage of the early stage of the Iraq war was, for example, also found to be biased in favor of the government. Worse yet is the fact that the newspaper in 2008 ran a story on how government officials met with media reporters to try to influence their coverage on that war. If the Times found this story newsworthy in 2008, it's strange that they are willing to get into something quite similar now.

Update: It has become increasingly clear that these NY Times redactions are in fact posted on the WikiLeaks website too. This must mean that WikiLeaks must actually tolerate the practice. It could also be added that the NY Times may have had legitimate reasons to do what they did. Involving governmental officials could be legitimate, as long as the protection of individuals is a central issue.